Unlike school, entertainment takes no breaks, not even for a pandemic. The summer of 2021 introduced us to new pop stars and delivered blockbuster movies. We binged and listened to let you know what is and is not worth your time.
“The Voice of the Heroes” by Lil Durk and Lil Baby
This album will have you ready to take over the world. Don’t take my word for it, take it from “The Voice of the Heroes,” Lil Durk and Lil Baby, arguably the hottest rappers in the game right now. My little brother put me on to the song “Up The Side” featuring Atlanta legend Young Thug and I have not turned it off since. This is not music to play in front of your parents but it will have you and your friends hype.
“Long Term Effects of SUFFERING” by $uicideboy$
New Orleans-based rap duo, $uicideboy$, is undoubtedly one of the most unique hip-hop groups from the past decade. Their newest full-length album, titled “Long Term Effects of SUFFERING,” shows that they continue to challenge the rap game using songs riddled with innuendos stemming from their past traumas, as most of their work shows.
Some of the most prolific musicians have used their tumultuous experiences to create art that can appeal to all walks of life, which $uicideboy$ does in the most daunting way possible. Between their creative song titles and gloomy-yet-invigorating lyricism, “Long Terms Effects of SUFFERING” is undoubtedly an underrated listen from this summer. Besides, how could you not love a song named “If Self-Destruction Was an Olympic Sport, I’d Be Tonya Harding”?
There is nothing more exciting than a new HBO Max show with a fantastic ensemble cast and their newest limited series, “The White Lotus,” does not disappoint. The show follows a group of affluent socialites and their families as they tackle new and old problems while vacationing in Hawaii at a boisterous resort called The White Lotus.
There is no doubt that the casting and character dynamics are on point in this six-episode series packed with familial and marital drama alike, not to mention the beautiful cinematography and witty screenplay. It is safe to say that no other streaming service can deliver a show with as much humor and dark undertones as HBO Max can. “The White Lotus” is just another example of what a true drama/satire series should be: unforgivably funny yet emotionally thrilling to watch.
The beloved MCU “villain” earned his own series and space for some well-deserved character development and growth. The show’s plot raises questions about freedom, identity and a person’s ability to change. There’s a lot there, but it fell a little short with so much introduction and only six 45-minute episodes. The series has its merits. The variants are hilarious, and Tom Hiddleston is as charismatic and witty as ever as Loki. But the finale felt rather anticlimactic. A lot of buildup and little answers left this first season feeling like an elaborate exposition whose main purpose was to advance and expand MCU’s possibilities with the timeline. That being said, I look forward to the possibilities and potential of the second season.
The Easter Bunny must have been on the production crew, with all of the Easter Eggs hidden throughout the episodes — pear phones, spontaneous combustion, Spencer’s sculptures and even a reference to Miranda Cosgrove’s “Drake and Josh” days. Carly, Freddie and Spencer return, along with appearances by Freddie’s mom, Nora Dershlit and Nevel Papperman (cue thunder and lightning.) The new characters fit in well, and although the plots get a little silly at times, it’s clear the show is directed toward an older audience. If you watched “iCarly” when you were a child, the Paramount+ reboot is everything you never knew you needed.
“Famous Friends” by Chris Young
Chris Young’s strong vocals create a strong album. The songs range from the fast-paced, guitar-riffs in the concert-opening worthy “One of Them Nights” to a slowed down piano-accompanied nod to George Strait in “Tonight We’re Dancing.” The country singer’s newest release has 14 tracks, including familiar fan favorites previously released as singles like “Raised on Country,” “Drowning,” and the Lauren Alaina duet “Town Ain’t Big Enough.” Other standout duets on the album include “At the End of a Bar” with Mitchell Tenpenny and the title track “Famous Friends” with Kane Brown, which I listen to every time I mass add people I know on LinkedIn.
“Sling” by Clairo
Chamber folk, baroque pop, 70s rock; Claire Cottrill’s sophomore album sees her venture away from her bedroom electropop roots toward new frontiers of genre-fusion for the singer-songwriter. Clairo, along with producer Jack Antonoff, retreated to a quiet studio in the mountains of upstate New York to record Sling, and that sense of seclusion is self-evident from the start of the album. Hushed acoustics, accompanied only by melancholic lyrics and the rare orchestral pivot, guide the album through Clairo’s therapeutically vulnerable lyricism. However, this muted intimacy, both sonically and lyrically, causes the album to blend together toward the end, resulting in a few of the tracks feeling monotonous. Despite that, Clairo’s Sling is still a delicate, euphoric exploration of Clairo’s desire for happiness, security and serenity.
“The Green Knight”
The “Little Prince” meets “Game of Thrones” in David Lowery’s cinematic retelling of the Arthurian epic. “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” is a stunning and intimate tale that masterfully weaves medieval poetry with magnificent cinematography to create an awe-inspiring mosaic of chivalry, honor and nobility. Sir Gawain (Dev Patel), a young knight of Camelot, is challenged by the Green Knight (Ralph Ineson) to a game - strike the Green Knight anywhere on his body and in one year, meet the Knight at a faraway chapel to receive the same blow in return. Sir Gawain, eager to prove himself to the other Knights of the Round Table, accepts the Green Knight’s offer.
One year later, he sets forth on an epic quest in an attempt to live up to his promise and learn what it means to be a knight. However, Gawain’s journey is not one of glorious retribution but is instead a journey of self-actualization in the face of certain doom. The film tells a slow and contemplative story of a naïve and dishonorable noble coming to terms with the futility of resisting nature. Accompanied by enchanting visuals, a haunting score and phenomenal performances, The Green Knight is a masterpiece and a must-watch for any fantasy fans.
With the cinema business being on hold for the entirety of 2020 due to the pandemic, movie theaters are starting to open up again. One of the first movies that I had the pleasure of seeing in the theaters for the first time in over a year was Marvel’s “Black Widow.” And as expected with the release of any Marvel movie, it was a full house. The movie’s release was pushed back a year due to COVID as well, but it did not disappoint. The film takes place right after “Captain America: Civil War” in the MCU timeline (so yes, Tony Stark is still alive and well) and includes a lot of anticipated action as well as a sentiment from Natasha Romanoff (Scarlet Johanson) and her dysfunctional family. The movie was well worth the wait and upheld the interest of this Marvel fan!
“Déjà vu” by Olivia Rodrigo
After reviewing Rodrigo’s full-length album “Sour” earlier this summer, her songs still remain on repeat. Deja Vu in particular has been a constant radio favorite throughout the past three months. The song is still top 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and is assumed to remain there for even longer. Even with melancholy lyrics, Rodrigo has managed to give us a song that is still fresh and has a melody that is perfect for summer evenings or late-night drives.
“Outer Banks” Season 2
Netflix’s most popular teen drama “Outer Banks” is a thrilling adventure of four teens from the wrong side of the tracks or island in this case. Everything about this show makes you crave more. The main character John B, played by Chase Stokes, is searching for answers about his father while simultaneously finding love. His friends JJ, Pouge and Kiara, played by Rudy Pankow, Jonathan Davis and Madison Bailey are along for the adventure of a lifetime. Season one started slow and got more exciting by the end while season two keeps you on the edge of your seat until the end when they drop the bomb no one saw coming. Netflix knew what they were doing when creating this tv show that encompasses the easygoing island life while sending you on a treasure hunt that will have you counting down the days until season three.
“Happier Than Ever” by Billie Eilish
Billie Eilish’s new song “Happier Than Ever” has all the listeners feeling every emotion. The beginning starts off slow and ethereal making you experience true sadness that can only be brought on by heartbreak. She then surprises everyone with the second half of the song. The beat picks up, the words become clearer, and she says exactly what is on everyone’s minds. The end of the song is my favorite part because she allows her listeners to scream out all of their anger. This song is healing in many ways. It gives people who have been through traumatic relationships a space to heal. The lyrics apply to everyone’s situation and it’s beautiful. It gives you a chance to cry while also allowing you to stick it to those who have wronged you. If you haven’t listened to this song you’re missing out on the best emotional rollercoaster of your life.
“High School Musical: The Musical: The Series" Season 2
My summer obsession was Olivia Rodrigo. I think it's hard to say that you haven't heard about her this summer. From season two of "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series" to her debut album "Sour" she was quite literally everywhere, and for good reasons because she is so talented and versatile. I loved seeing her grow from who we knew from her Disney+ series to being the face of teen angst in 2021. I'm excited to see how she'll grow and evolve as an artist considering how young she is now.
I started my summer obsessing over the season of "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series," but by the end, I was feeling a little underwhelmed. I liked the first season, but this one left me bored. I literally binged season one four times, but I'm perfectly fine with watching season two only once.
“Star Wars: The Bad Batch”
Following the events of Order 66 as depicted in Revenge of the Sith and the animated Clone Wars series, the next installment of the Star Wars saga is here with The Bad Batch which follows the titular elite squad of clone troopers, each equipped with genetic mutations individual to them, who were introduced in the final season of Clone Wars as they navigate the newly established Galactic Empire as relics of the Republic. While the show has an excessive amount of side adventures and “mercenary mission of the week” episodes that do nothing to serve the overall plot, I enjoyed this show and found myself looking forward to it every Friday. The animation is eye-popping and gorgeous, the action is thrilling, the characters are dastardly cool, and Easter Eggs are glorious to behold. The imagery and emotional stakes also become quite dark, especially in the back half of the season. What more could you ask for (besides more concise storytelling)? In essence, Star Wars: The Bad Batch may feel a tad abstruse for a casual fan of the saga with its callbacks and world-building, but it provides fans with an exciting, deeper dive into the aftermath of the Jedi Purge that elucidates the conclusion of the Clone Wars and the dawn of Empire’s reign through the eyes, err helmets, of Clone Force 99.
Pixar's summer release of Luca could not have come at a more perfect time--when all seemed bleak, in came a heartwarming, low-stakes Bildungsroman about fish people, of all things. Who knew?
Luca's atmosphere and tone are the epitome of a perfect summer movie. With a 7.5 on IMDb and a 91% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it's safe to say that audiences of all ages enjoyed this movie. It's fun, it's charming, it's got jokes that will get a laugh out of anyone and, true to Pixar form, it made me cry like a baby at the end.
If you haven't seen Luca yet, you should. As summer comes to a rapid close, there's never been a better time to enjoy this fuzzy summer feel-good flick.